Latest update March 31st, 2023 12:59 AM
May 02, 2017 Sports
Kaieteur News has sought to ear of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) on a number
of issues affecting the sport. There has been a welcome increase and renewed focus on building a solid foundation at the junior level but there also remains a number of lingering matters which we sought clarification of.
Following are the questions posed and the responses offered by Forde.
KS – What is the feedback like on the GFF/STAG Elite League which has motored on without Pele, GFC, Slingerz and Alpha United?
WF – Overwhelmingly the fans, the general public and our key stakeholders welcomed our plans to expand the League. I think the vast majority of people could see the sense in it, and why it was so necessary for the fairer, regional development of the game. As a matter of fact, it was the main sponsor that first posited the idea of expanding the League publicly during the prize presentation ceremony. The executive committee was indeed excited to hear this since both the logic and impact of leaving Linden out of the League in our judgement was totally unacceptable and somewhat suspicious.
Naturally, no right-minded person could have anticipated that a purely progressive football initiative aimed at providing an additional sixty players and two traditionally strong football communities with the opportunity to develop and contribute, would have erupted into such an unnecessary political circus, with Club Presidents hedging the development and future of their players in an “all in” poker game that ultimately had no winner.
What we have witnessed is the ugliness and sad reality of the old ways of the politics of football, where meaningful development is subordinate to political and personal calculations.
We are happy to have the support of FIFA and CONCACAF in reforming football in Guyana and in our efforts to reducing the power of old vested interests that have held football back for so long.
The clubs have only succeeded in completely confusing the public, and denying their players the chance to compete. Their first argument was that they were not consulted on the League expansion; we proved otherwise. Their second argument was that we had breached a contract: everyone is still holding their breath for this elusive contract to emerge.
And thirdly, they said that the expansion of the League was a breach of the Constitution. Again, FIFA and CONCACAF have said this is a false interpretation of the Constitution, but of course we all know it was a deliberately manufactured argument from a group of people who are only interested in disrupting our work in reforming and developing football with the hope that it will force FIFA and/or CONCACAF to intervene.
To answer your question, the League plays on, and football will ultimately be the winner as our plans and programmes bear fruit in the years to come. This game is bigger than everyone and it will never be held to ransom by vested interests under my watch.
KS – Would you say that the standard has been compromised given the absence of these four clubs?
WF – I believe what we now have is greater balance in the League, with a clear indication that football is returning to the communities that developed many of the better players. The League is a work in progress that will evolve in the coming years, like so many of the programmes we are introducing.
There are, of course, unique challenges that must be confronted as we pursue the dream of a genuine professional league. One being that clubs must respect the authority and powers of their elected officials and allow their policies to take shape in a spirit of fairness and cooperation.
I think we are at least four years away from a genuine professional league, and we should not try to fool the public. We need to focus on the fundamentals, such as improving playing venues, developing the players, coaches and referees, reforming the League’s business model, etc.
Those of us that understand football and truly care about the game would have no difficulty in recognising that any country that is ranked 139 but was choosing to give 60 percent of its developmental funds to the organisation and third-party management of a single League needed to rebalance its focus. That is what this administration is doing, with the full support of FIFA and CONCACAF.
KS – The clubs have appealed to the GFF Disciplinary Committee and it has ruled, what is the position of the GFF in relation to their ruling?
WF – The Disciplinary Committee is an independent judicial arm of the Guyana Football Federation and the Executive Committee respects the independence of the Committee. However, this committee did not have jurisdiction on this matter, as it was within the powers and rights of the Executive Committee to change the league, in accordance with the Constitution.
The FIFA Council decided to expand the World Cup for the good of the game, as is their right, but you will not see Germany or Argentina refusing to participate just because they might disagree. These are the backward-looking, destructive attitudes that have to change for football to move forward in Guyana.
Thankfully, we have an Executive Committee in place with the vision, credibility and integrity to transform football for the better, and to change the image of Guyana in the wider football world.
KS – There has been a welcome increase in football activity, Scotiabank Youth Academy, GFF/NAMILCO Thunderbolt U17 and GFF/Pele Alumni ‘Frank Watson’ National U-15 Intra-Association Tournaments, how have the RMA’s been responding in terms of efficiency?
I am very encouraged by the eagerness of our regional member associations to support the many transformative and overdue development programmes that this new GFF has implemented already. They play a critical role in ensuring that we reach our players, coaches, referees and fans.
We simply cannot develop football without their support and that is why we will be supporting their operating costs with FIFA funds and improving playing venues throughout the country.
KS – There has also been an increase in encampment of National Teams, what has driven this new move?
WF – You may recall that after our poor showing at the CFU U17 tournament in August of 2016, I made a public statement that this was the last time we would enter a major tournament so unprepared. With the new technical director, and a greatly expanded technical team, what you are seeing is the delivery on that commitment but, more importantly, the manifestation of the only formula for success.
Guyana will be the strongest country in CFU within the next eight years and a potent force at every CONCACAF level. Just look at the emphasis on our nationwide youth development programmes and you get an appreciation for that vision. I have been involved in football for a very long time and I always felt that money was not the only solution to our development challenges but rather, a clear long-term, structured strategy with a special focus on youth development, which is what we now have.
When you develop a strategy, it becomes much easier to identify opportunities for cost reduction, networking and finding the right mechanics that will build synergies and improve efficiencies.
KS – Why has Berbice been the chosen destination for these encampments?
WF – Berbice is a great example of how the strategy pointed us to a location. The primary goal is to bring the national teams together as often as is necessary, based entirely on the performance targets the technical team set following their initial assessment of the team.
Through our networking mechanism, we have been able to access accommodation in Berbice at little or no cost, with meals at their lowest costs, and the only transportation cost we are incurring is the drive to and from Berbice. We have access to training venues without the hurdles we are often confronted with in Georgetown.
It is worthwhile reminding the public that, despite many years of funding being available from FIFA for the construction of our own football headquarters and facilities, this was never achieved. The GFF has finally secured that funding and the construction of the FIFA Forward project – the GFF National Training Centre at Providence – we will have a facility for national team camps and other programmes which will greatly reduce costs again and increase our capacity for football development.
KS – On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the relationship with the GFF and its Members in terms of being on the same wave length?
WF – I think 11 is a good mark. I am convinced that every member association is fully aware of our focus and priorities, with a clear understanding of how we plan to implement our programmes. We have been meeting with them and not only updating them but soliciting their involvement.
Where I think a gap might still exist is in the willingness of some member associations to get serious about doing the work they were elected to do. I am extremely dissatisfied with the gross lack of effort and initiative I am witnessing in a minority of associations, but at this time I am leaving it up to the members of those associations to hold their leaders accountable before any action is taken by the Federation.
The message needs to be clear that the Executive Committee has a clear mandate to develop and reform football throughout Guyana and it will not turn a blind eye to any members that are asleep at the wheel.
KS – What are your plans to achieve a united GFF progressing?
WF – Let me be absolutely clear: we already have a unified fraternity. The unity that speaks to everyone hugging and wishing each other well is a utopia that does not exist in any football nation that I am aware of. Where unity counts is in a collective commitment to development programmes and strategies, and while I wish that some of the interpersonal relationships were better, my emphasis has to be on building consensus on how to develop the players and the game, and delivering those programmes.
Hopefully, in that we will find common ground and a reason to get along. There will always be those that are set against you, regardless of reason or progress – but I think the membership, public and fans fully understand and see through those agendas.
KS – Back to the issue of the four clubs being deemed non-compliant; are efforts being made to re-integrate them back into the fold? And how would that be achieved?
WF – The four clubs were officially notified that as a consequence of their unconstitutional and voluntary withdrawal from the League, they have been relegated but are authorised to play at the Association level. It is through that mechanism that their reintegration will take place.
KS – Female football is being encouraged more with the naming of a squad for encampment and subsequent selection of a team for the CFU, how serious is the GFF in terms of this segment of the sport?
WF – Let’s start with the success of the National Women’s Development League, followed by the recent appointment of the GFF’s first full-time Women’s Development Officer who will focus solely on women’s football – that is a clear indication of how serious we are in this area.
The previous neglect of women’s football was something we have sought urgently to address, with the full support of FIFA and CONCACAF. The early preparation of national teams for upcoming competitions is yet another indicator. The emphasis on women’s football also has a lot to do with our efforts to spread the reach of the game – each of these young women brings along with them: mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts, new sponsors etc. We are cultivating fans and new streams of revenue that are badly needed to take the sport to the next level. We are also able to access more funding from FIFA, specifically for women’s and girls’ football, which we will be taking full advantage of in the years ahead.
KS – There has been an increase in staff numbers especially in the Technical area, how have the new additions been performing and how does the GFF plan on sustaining their employment?
WF – It is not any different to any company that is expanding its operations: we need to train these employees and create an environment for growth. The main ingredient is their commitment and I am proud to say that there is no shortage of that.
Most importantly, this bigger technical team is a shining example of this administration’s commitment to sustained and structured football development, and to invest in the right areas to achieve sustainable future success.
KS – How has the new TD been performing to date?
WF – I am very pleased with Mr. Greenwood’s performance, he is very disciplined in his attention to detail and is committed to the vision of the Executive Committee. The impact of his work over the course of only six months is very evident for all to see.
I think everyone can see the difference that this appointment has made to our progress in recent months. We believe he was the perfect choice for the plans we wanted to implement, and he has more than lived up to our expectations.
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